Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Rainy River Cereal looking to build plant

With one piece of the funding puzzle still to fall in place, the creators of a locally-produced popped wild rice cereal are hoping to build a production facility at Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation (Red Gut Bay) later this year.
A few years ago, Rainy River Cereal was test-marketed everywhere—from the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto to Quebec to Timmins to stores in Rainy River District and at the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market here.

“The test market went really well,” said Andrew Atwell of Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation.
“But to move to the next level from test market, we now need to find equipment and move full steam ahead, so that’s what we’re doing,” he added.
Atwell said he’s got two conditional funding sources set to go—a $47,000 grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. (NOHFC) and a business loan from the Rainy River Future Development Corp. (RRFDC) for roughly the same amount.
But he stressed these are conditional and that he and his wife and business partner, Shirley Atwell, haven’t got the money yet.
He had to have a business plan approved by Deloitte & Touche Canada to qualify for the NOHFC money and the RRFDC has approved a loan. But both funding sources are contingent on a third funding source.
As such, Atwell is working on a funding proposal to the Canada-Ontario Resource Development Agreement.
“If they approve their funding, then we’ve got what we need to move forward,” he explained.
Atwell said a test facility was built several years ago to produce cereal for the test marketing, but now he wants a bigger building with hoppers, a puffing gun, and other equipment.
The plan is to not only make and sell cereal, but hire local First Nations’ labour.
Atwell said he has some dollars lined up through Shooniyaa-Wa-Biitong to offset some of the labour costs.
He also noted some wild rice likely would have to be imported from Saskatchewan and Manitoba because there isn’t enough rice being picked in this area at the moment.
But eventually he’d like that to change.
“That’s one of the benefits—it will help reignite that, the traditional harvesting,” he remarked.
“But right now, the green [rice] pickers are only getting a buck a pound,” Atwell noted.
“It’s incredible what’s been going on with the business. They take half-a-day for a bag of rice at a dollar a pound.”
While marketing also is part of the plan, Atwell said there already is a lot of interest in the cereal, whether its distributors and businesses interested in carrying the cereal, consumers who have bought it and enjoyed it, or even politicians.
“From Minister [Tony] Clement down, people are rooting for this thing, eh?” Atwell enthused.
“[MP] Greg Rickford out of Kenora, I’m waiting for a support letter from him. He’s got celiac in his family and this cereal is gluten-free.
“That’s the other big benefit to it,” he noted.
The cereal also appeared on the popular CBC TV show, “Dragon’s Den,” back in 2008.
Find out more about Rainy River Cereal at www.rainyrivercereal.com

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